So we’re almost at the end of our week-long celebration of 2011 and we’ve enjoyed it immensely. We picked our favorite games from WiiWare to 3DS, Noah gave a tearful speech about how much he’s hoping that Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright might actually come out on 3DS next year, Ms. Byrne and Mr. Knezevic left the party with their pockets full of thieved canapes and I get so inebriated merry that I just reuse the intro to last year’s round table and hope no one notices. Roll on 2012, we say!
But while we look to the future and drink in all the spectacle of announcing our top games of the year, we risk forgetting the other games that frustrated us, surprised us and moved us in the past twelve months. Sure, they may not have been as perfect or universally acclaimed as the few prestigious titles that are currently being swamped with a landslide of awards, but they brought us pleasure and surely that’s all that matters, right? Read on to find out which games our staff thought deserved a bit more love than they ended up receiving.
While it did make honorable mention in the DS category, I think that Radiant Historia deserved better and is one of the most underrated games of 2011. Atlus’s game only saw two limited print runs and is now a collector’s item: as of the time of this writing, used copies on Amazon are going for $50. Because of that limited print, though, this game never cast the wide net that it should have and relatively few gamers got to experience it.
For those that did, though, Radiant Historia encapsulated some brilliant gameplay. With grand artistry, the game blended the concepts of parallel worlds and time travel (think Chrono Trigger meets Chrono Cross), with some fascinating characters and mind-bending political intrigue. The game encouraged experimentation and risk-taking, rewarding innovation and constantly encouraging players to try a different tack, all while minimizing unnecessary irritation; cutscenes could be skipped, for instance, which made returning to a previously visited moment in time a joy rather than an aggravation. Likewise, the chraracters looked great, the settings were picturesque, and the combat, while turn-based, was by turns both tense and thoughtful. Rounding it all out was an absolutely unforgettable soundtrack composed by Yoko Shimomura, whose credits include Kingdom Hearts and Nintendojo’s favorite obsession, Xenoblade Chronicles.
I realize that the DS category is always a crowded field, this year as much as any, but this is one game that really deserves consideration among the best. If only people could now get it for less than a fortune…
I must admit, I’m a little disappointed that Kirby Mass Attack didn’t even receive a passing acknowledgement in our “Best DS Games” category. I thought it was one of the puffball’s finest adventures (certainly in the league of last year’s Epic Yarn) beating out his other 2011 releases with its fun gameplay and sheer creativity. The touch screen was a surprisingly intuitive way to control your army of mini-Kirbies, offering up a level of freedom and precision that a traditional control scheme simply couldn’t allow. It was also indescribably funny to see the expressions wrought on each of their pink little faces when they gang-assaulted, with flailing, tiny limbs, one of the enemies unfortunate enough to be caught standing in their way. I’ve always felt that Kirby was at his best when he ventured off the series’ beaten path, and Mass Attack, with its unique premise and compelling challenges, only reaffirmed this belief.
With this much support, it’s surprising that Kirby didn’t receive more critical acclaim in 2011.
(On an unrelated note, I’m also quite appalled that Super Mario 3D Land ultimately lost out to Mario Kart 7 for best 3DS game. That truly is the tragedy of our time.)
Although most of this year’s great Nintendo titles haven’t gone particularly unnoticed, there have been a handful of games this year that definitely deserve attention that the media may not be providing. Calling Pilotwings Resort my favorite 3DS launch title isn’t doing it much justice, because frankly, the launch was pretty terrible. My experience with Pilotwings, while perhaps not exactly on par with the “big boys”, was definitely up there by Mario, Zelda, and newcomer, Pushmo. Wuhu Island is still an exciting place to explore, even after my initial trek through it a few years ago on Wii, with it’s cool landmarks and geography, interesting tidbits, and a bounty of secrets and unlockables. Sure, it won’t revolutionize the way you play games, but it’ll keep you hooked for hours on end. Plus, it’s a great way to show off how effective 3D can be (and how jet packs never get old).
I actually really enjoyed StreetPass Quest last year, the small RPG built right into your Mii Plaza on 3DS. It’s perhaps the sole reason why my 3DS is now an essential “bag item” whenever I leave the house in the morning, and for someone who does a lot of walking it also gives me a chance to spend all those well-earned coins on something worthwhile. It also doesn’t solely rely on you meeting lots of Miis out and about either, which is just as well because I must have met a grand total of five during the first three months of its launch, and it wouldn’t have been half so much fun if I hadn’t been able to hire a bunch of warriors to fill in the gaps. It may well be capitalising on today’s current infatuation with hats when all’s said and done, but I’m quite surprised by how much time I’ve spent playing it.
Between Street Fighter, Zelda and Star Fox, the 3DS quickly gained a reputation as a remake hothouse.
Despite my average play time being only six minutes, it ranks third on number of times played and is currently clocking at least one more hour than Street Fighter IV 3D— my only 3DS game until Ocarina of Time 3D came out (although that might be because I’m rubbish at fighting games). And the December update made it even better, adding an additional quest about three times the size of the first one and the chance to hand pick a team of Miis from your entire plaza (even though scrolling through the hundred-odd self-styled Links I met at the Zelda Symphony concert can be a bit irritating). If there was a category for “Best Inbuilt Software on 3DS”, then StreetPass Quest would definitely get my vote.
Quite honestly, I can’t really think of anything that was a really bad snub. It wasn’t really a huge year for Nintendo even though they stuff they did well was really good. I’d probably say something along the lines of 3D Classics: Kirby’s Adventure but that’s more or less of my Kirby fangirl speaking. I did also enjoy Super Street Fighter IV 3D edition which just edged Ocarina of Time 3D on my list of best 3DS games.
As for music, I really loved Mario Kart 7‘s music, but I can understand if points are deducted due to the fact that half the songs are just redone classics. I do love their remix of the SNES’ “Rainbow Road” theme. Other than that, there’s really not much to get all cranky pants about.
PS: Swapnote rules!
Now that we’ve championed our little causes, the gauntlet has been thrown to you dear reader! What underappreciated games of 2011 do you feel have been overlooked by our awards and the industry as a whole? Support your forgotten favourites in the comments’ section below!